Raiders sit Ruseel down in favor of Gradkowski
ALAMEDA, Calif. – The Oakland Raiders benched former No. 1 overall pick JaMarcus Russell on Wednesday, handing the starting job to journeyman Bruce Gradkowski for the foreseeable future.
Coach Tom Cable made the announcement of the change following practice as the Raiders (2-7) prepare to play the Cincinnati Bengals on Sunday. Cable said this was not a temporary move, that his plan is to stick with Gradkowski.
“I don’t want to be like that,” he said. “This is where we’re headed and what we’re going to do. He’ll take this team and go with it.”
Russell was not in the locker room during the media access period and was not available for comment after the decision was announced. Cable said Russell was disappointed by the decision but worked hard in practice Wednesday
Cable said owner Al Davis gave him the autonomy to make the decision on his own and supported the move.
“As we all know, it’s important to include him in everything so he knows what’s going on with this football team,” Cable said.
Cable had pulled Russell for ineffectiveness in two of the past three games as he grew more frustrated with Russell’s inaccuracy and poor decision-making in his third season in the NFL.
The Raiders believed Russell would be the quarterback to turn the struggling franchise around when they drafted him No. 1 out of LSU in 2007 and eventually gave him a contract with about $31 million in guaranteed money. But his career has sputtered from the start.
He had a lengthy holdout as a rookie before finally signing his deal after the first game of the season. He played briefly down the stretch before getting the starting job a year ago. Russell was inconsistent in his first full season as a starter, but showed some bright signs with a strong finish to the season that included wins over Houston and Tampa Bay.
Instead of having a breakthrough in his third season, Russell has regressed and has been booed regularly at home games.
Russell has completed just 46.8 percent of his passes this season, with nine interceptions and five lost fumbles and the second worst passer rating in the league at 47.7.
Cable said he still believes in Russell’s future even if all signs appear to be pointing to him becoming one of the more notable draft busts.
Russell will be the No. 2 quarterback this week against the Bengals.
“This is in no way giving up on the guy,” Cable said. “This is just trying to jump-start this team and really break it down and make a decision based on what gives us the best chance to win.”